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The Necessity of Women’s Leadership in Ethiopia (Full content of the presentation on March 20, 2016)
A paper presented by Assegid Habtewold
Center for the Rights of Ethiopian Women (CREW) 5th Annual Conference
In memory of Dr. Miagenet Shifferaw
Theme: Women in Leadership
Place: Resident Inn Marriott Hotel
Date: March 20 2016
I. Introduction: Interview with Dr. Miagenet Shifferaw
Last year, almost this time around, I was looking for an interviewee to talk about why Ethiopian women aren’t at the front and leading. Everywhere I asked that question, Dr. Miagenet’s name came up again and again. After a few phone and email conversations, we did set a date to conduct the interview.
When I met her the first time, I found her a very considerate and fair leader who listens intently. She was fair because she was not angry with men and blamed them for everything J. Even if I never had any more chance to meet and work with her, the leadership qualities that I witnessed prior, during, and post interview convinced me that she was an extraordinary leader, and we all are going to miss her.
II. Who are (is) the culprits for gender inequality?
Coming back to the interview, for my first question: Who is (are) responsible why women are not at the front and leading, she pointed out that the culprits are our culture first, and then some men, and women themselves too.
Dr. Miagenet enlisted the culprits:
2.1.Our men dominated and patriarchal culture, the school system that favors boys over girls, men over women, and the different religious institutions that undermine the leadership participation of women.
2.2.Conscious and unconscious biases from men who think women aren’t capable to lead like men
2.3.Lack of awareness, education, and organization of women. She pointed out that only 33% women older than 15 years are literate.
III. What should be done to narrow and finally bridge the gender inequality?
Concerning the question: What should be done, she emphasized the importance of education. In this regard, she admired the teaching model of the Brazilian educator Paulo Freire. She briefly explained his model:
3.1. The first stage of his model is creating awareness,
3.2. This in turn generates anger in the oppressed,
3.3. The latter leads them to organize themselves, and
3.4. Demand their rights.
IV. What women should do to bridge the gender inequality?
I agree with Dr. Miagenet, awareness and education are very critical. On top of that, I suggest the following recommendations for women to liberate themselves:
Women should be proactive in the process of narrowing both the gender inequality, and gender leadership gap. They shouldn’t wait until they are given the right to lead. They should take it by force J. They shouldn’t expect men to give them their rights on a silver platter. This is an insult to women. They can lead their own battle to claim their birthrights of leadership. Men’s main role should be supporting women in ways they could, especially those influential men in high places. What I’M saying is that women should lead the liberation by organizing themselves. Otherwise, as Paulo Freire said, “Attempting to liberate the oppressed without their reflective participation in the act of liberation is to treat them as objects that must be saved from a burning building.”
4.2.Avoid Albright’s syndrome
In one of Hillary Clinton’s rallies, Madeleine Albright said, “There is a special place in Hell for women who don’t help each other.” As you may already be aware, it backfired. Women shouldn’t be supported because of their gender, rather, because of their competency, personality, and character. If women start to show gender prejudice, men too may follow suit, and that doesn’t help women’s right advocacy work at all. This alienates many men.
4.3. Don’t be neutral while others are oppressed
It’s a plain fact that the majority of Ethiopian women are absent from the struggle against oppression in Ethiopia orchestrated by the tyrannical government in Ethiopia. Except a few heroines, most women are at the sidelines and watching gross repression in the name of being neutral. Paulo Freire has been known worldwide for his pedagogical methods designed to educate the oppressed. Dr. Miagenet Shiferraw admired this scholar a lot. Concerning neutrality, here is what he had to say, “Washing one’s hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral.”
While the dictatorial regime in Ethiopia uprooting indigenous people from their ancestral land without their consent nor compensation, and while unarmed protesters including mothers and children are killed by live bullets, and citizens in thousands are jailed and tortured because of their ethnicity, and political views, women’s silence and taking neutral position is appalling, to say the least.
It’s understandable if women’s organizations taking non-partisan position to serve all women of diverse political viewpoints. They don’t need to endorse one single political party’s ideology and program. However, Fascism, Nazism, and Dictatorship are not parties, they are oppressors. Thus, those women who aren’t siding with the oppressed are siding with the oppressor. Complaining that they’re oppressed but failing to stand by the side of other sections of the society who are oppressed is paradoxical. It obviously denies them authenticity. They cannot rally a wide array of support from others in their fight against gender inequality.
V. The 3G Leadership Gaps
That being said let me give you quick background information about why I began showing interest in the necessity of women in leadership. PRO Leadership in its 2015 annual conference, which was held at Prince George’s Community College, recognized the 3G (Geographic, Generational, & Gender) Leadership Gaps.
5.1. Geographic Leadership Gap
No one disputes the existence of leadership gap in the Southern and Eastern Hemispheres than in the West.
5.2. Generational Leadership Gap
There’s a huge generational gap globally. Research shows that, in just the US alone, 33 million baby boomer leaders are going to retire by the year 2020. The same is true in our case. Who are leading both in Ethiopia and here in the Diaspora? The Ethiopian version baby boomer leaders J are in charge everywhere. Whether it’s within the ruling party or in the opposition camp; whether it’s in the NGOs or in the religious institutions, the dominant decision makers are members of the older generation. There’s nothing wrong with this as far as the contemporary leaders are conscious about the existence of the generational gap and proactively raising their successors. Unfortunately, that is not what is happening.
5.3. Gender Leadership Gap
Likewise, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that we’re plagued by gender leadership gap. Regardless of their number, which is more 50% and their lion share contributions at family, community, and national levels, enough women aren’t at the front and leading.
VI. Prices we pay due to gender leadership gap
We pay dire prices at many levels.
When individual women unable to take leadership, they couldn’t maximize their potential, and that means we are wasting more than half of our national potential.
What an opportunity for children to be raised by their mom who is a leader? They learn what it means to take leadership by watching her do it. And, it’s obvious that a leader mom raises her children teaching them practical lessons as they grow up. When they go out to the world, nothing could be able to make them put their head down. They claim their leadership birthright and serve their community using their unique talents boldly. No barrier could stop them.
Our community has so many issues that need the leadership contributions of women. We have a disintegrated community with so many challenges, and these cannot be tackled and defeated without the active leadership involvement of women.
Ethiopia has been inflicted by constant famine, food insufficiency, conflict, and the lack of freedom, democracy, justice, and good governance. Bringing a lasting change through smooth transition require the leadership of women.
VII. What is next?
What should be the roles of women’s right groups like CREW, and other organizations like PRO Leadership that aim at empowering individuals including women to bridge the leadership gap?
7.1. CREW should
1. Continue to raise the awareness of both women and men about the gap
* By arranging Leadership Conferences like this one
2. Build capacity by arranging
* Mentoring programs to raise women leaders in collaboration with other stakeholders
7.2. PRO Leadership could provide
* Leadership Experts to speak at the conferences, and facilitate during workshops,
* Leadership Mentors (both men and women) to mentor, especially emerging women leaders,
* Frameworks and Models,
* And more…
Both CREW and PRO Leadership should team up and
- Arrange Conferences,
- Workshops, and
- Mentoring Programs by themselves or in partnership with other stakeholders
VIII. Killing 2 Birds, Using 1 Stone
CREW as a Women’s right advocacy group should continue to engage in increasing the awareness of both women and men concerning the existing gender inequality and things to be done to bridge the gap.
The existing advocacy works, however, aren’t adequate. The advocacy works shouldn’t be left to women and to those organizations that represent women alone. Both women and men who understand the inequality that exists, and the dire consequences of this disparity should continue to push regional and global institutions, governments, companies, and community and religious organizations to make changes- Tangible changes in their perceptions, policies, and systems.
While continuing to promote gender equality, the long term and lasting solution should be to raise competent women leaders at all levels. In my humble opinion, it’s possible women advocacy organizations like CREW to kill two birds using one stone if the lion share of such organizations’ priority, focus, and investment is directed toward building the leadership capacity of women.
The more women become leaders at home, in the neighborhood, work and market places, the more they will have real chances to influence and ultimately bridge both the gender inequality, and the leadership gap that exists at all levels.
Myself as women’s right advocate, and leadership expert, I’m committed to play my share. Our non-profit organization- PRO Leadership Global Inc. is also dedicated to play its share. We look forward to partner with you to bridge the gender leadership gap, and in turn empower women to play their contributions in tackling local, national, regional, and global challenges we are facing. It’s possible. We can use 1 stone (developing women’s leadership capacity) to kill 2 birds- gender inequality and leadership gap.
Our desire to succeed is one thing. The values we’ve embraced that are counter productive and contrary to our intentions is another. If we don’t have the right values that support our intentions and desires, we’re doomed to fail.
I’ve been emphasizing this reality for a very long period of time. I keep on telling my clients, trainees, and mentees: The authors of your success (failure) are those values you have harbored. I challenge them, if you are sick and tired of failing again and again, and wondering how to overcome those shortcomings that have been sabotaging your progress, you need to figure out the underlining values first.
Both at individual, corporate, and societal levels, our successes (failures) are highly dependent on the kind of values we have adopted. Unfortunately, many individuals, organizations, and societies are unaware of how some of their own values are sabotaging their own success and progress. They point their fingers somewhere, and play blame game. They’re unable to figure out that the culprits for their disappointments could be some of their own values.
As a leader, are you aware of your values, and their influence in the different aspects of your life, organization, and society?
A true leader understands the value and need for personal growth and development. Effective leaders cultivate an environment that welcomes change and eventually brings out real change in the actions and behaviors of those under their leadership. Effective leaders facilitate the change process, overcome resistance, and encourage others to embrace change rather than fear change. An active leader provides support, motivation, and strategies to guide the change process. Life is constantly evolving gradually from simple to complex and vice versa. Life begins to move you forward into positions you may not be expecting or anticipating. For this reason, a leader holds an important responsibility in the change process…anticipate, inspire, embrace and lead.
A true leader continues to evolve and understands that leadership is not a destination, but a journey. Leaders inspire others to follow, engage in activities that refine and fine-tune their leadership acumen and attributes. More importantly, they demonstrate behaviors and principles of good moral conduct and character, which capture the minds of people and inspire them to follow. A famous speaker once said that good leadership does not always start at the front, as mayors, presidents, CEO’s or as managers; it starts at the back as servants.
Actions of great leaders:
- Make followers,
- Help others grow as faithful followers,
- Communicate effectively,
- Inspire and equip others for the next task,
- Work in a respectful and collegial relationship with members, staff, and volunteers.
As a visionary leader, one must reproduce leadership in others. Leaders must learn how to mentor leaders so that they, in turn, go on to generate more leaders. A wise leader takes actions to inspire others to join together, follow, and pursue collective goals and actions. They provide three major and important components: a) the ability to be structured, b) receive instruction, and c) allow formation in their lives.
Every human being needs structure, even when they are in their mother’s womb. Many people never achieve their fullest potential or proper growth because they do not accept structure. We all receive structure whether at school, home, work, in our cars, or places we visit. As leaders we must embrace change and structure in order to advance forward successfully. People who struggle with either or both, will become limited and not reach and operate within their gifts and talents. I always say a building without structure will crumble much faster and easier when challenges occur.
After having received structure, we are ready to receive instruction. May I remind you, that those who have no structure will not welcome change because they are stuck in an old way of thinking. Many people now days seek instruction from technology, copy others, which makes them a shadow of someone or something. You will always find someone to mentor you and instruct you in the areas that you are weak or need improvement. Many don’t care about instruction; they want it now and fast. We can’t build on instant relationships. We cultivate those relationships, which come our way to instruct us for the better.
Once receiving structure and instruction, we can move into formation. Here is where the character of a leader begins to be formed – attitude, mentality, moral principles, work habits, ethics, fundamentals, and integrity. We may possess a world of information but lack formation and leadership skills to lead others. After all, information is not the same as formation. Therefore, a leader must seek and accept structure, instruction, and formation daily, which will lead to a successful career, filled of longevity and legacy.
In conclusion, the best example I can share is the story of the “Eagle”. The eaglet at first receives structure in the nest. In their young stage the eagle does not know they were chosen to be the kings of the air, to operate and live in greater heights, and that they were born to rise as great leaders and rulers. As they grow, they receive instruction from the parent in regards to who they are. They are being prepared for their jump into destiny. Finally, they are ready for formation. The parents begin to instruct them on how to fly and leave the nest on their own. The final push out of the nest becomes the greatest lesson from the parents. Now they are ready to make their debut and soar to new heights. Eagles were taught to fly with eagles and dwell in the heights. You and I have been born to soar to new heights and become great leaders. Having mastered these three steps, you will be ready to step out without fear and lead change.
About the author:
Timothy Rodriguez is a native of El Salvador, and migrated to Long Island New York at the age of 10. In 2002, he graduated from Molloy College, where he received a Bachelor’s degree in Education. He also completed a Minor in Spanish and is currently pursuing his Master Degree in religious studies. Since 2008, Rodriguez has committed his life to serving the needs of others. He is also a soccer coach in the DC district. Rodriguez is a proud Father to his “princess” Elise Rose Rodriguez. In his free time, Rodriguez enjoys spending time with his family, playing sports, reading, reflecting, teaching, running, and playing his guitar.
We encourage you to use this opportunity to meet or call or email your mentors and say “Thank you” for the difference they made in your leadership journey.
PRO Leadership celebrates this theme this month and say thank you to all of you who have participated in our mentoring programs directly and/or indirectly.
As you might have already known mentoring is at the center of PRO Leadership’s mission: “To inspire, train, and mentor leaders who cannot access or afford formal leadership development resources and programs”. For that matter, PRO Leadership has been mentoring leaders since its establishment on October 20, 2009, and we have graduates from our two mentoring programs: Bronze, and Silver Mentoring Programs.
In this month, once more, we recommit ourselves to empower leaders through mentoring. But, we need your help. You can support our mentoring effort and make a difference in so many ways:
1. Volunteer to mentor. Visit the Volunteers page for details and see how you can get involved.
2. Make donations. You have various options to donate. For details, check the Support US page.
3. Become a permanent Supporter. We can choose from four types of Supporters and be part of the family. For details, check the Supporters page.
4. Join our team to celebrate this theme. Currently, we are trying our best to celebrate this theme either in person, virtually, or online together with our Stakeholders, Supporters, Volunteers, and Partners. If you would like to be part of this event and contribute your share, please contact our Marketing Director Zebiba Jibreel via email: email@example.com or call her @ 240-604-0065
Team PRO Leadership
PRO Leadership provides mentoring programs for leaders in an effort to assist them lead their organizations with leadership excellence. We have four kinds of mentoring programs- Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Diamond. The first stage of mentoring at PRO Leadership is Bronze, which takes six sessions plus a final project.
Since the start of this program, we have graduates who have been empowered through this program. Two of such graduates are Pastors Sisay Debela (WA, Seattle) and Woubshet Humaso (PA, Philadelphia), who recently completed this program.
In recognition to their successful completion of the Bronze-mentoring program, they were awarded certificate during our second year anniversary event on October 22, 2011 at Marriott Hotel at Maryland University.
Congratulations Pastors Sisay and Woubshet!
PRO Leadership believes that each and every one of us is leaders in the area of our gifting and purpose in life. We aren’t here promoting making every one a leader everywhere. One may be a leader at his job but follower at home and/or in his church, social club, and so on. Accordingly, we would like to inspire all individuals become leaders of their destiny by developing leadership attributes and by acquainting themselves to the available leadership concepts, theories, styles, and insights.
The beneficiaries of this program are both leaders and prospective leaders. The latter are those who aspire to become leaders but don’t have an organization, team, or title as of yet. Whether you are a leader or prospective leader, PRO Leadership has one-on-one mentoring programs to empower you. Right now, we have taken a very few number of mentees to begin with but we plan to expand it as we get more volunteer mentors.
The following are the four kinds of mentoring programs at PRO Leadership:
1. Bronze Mentoring Program (Bronzes)- six sessions (3 months) for beginners,
2. Silver Mentoring Program (Silvers)- twelve sessions (6 months) for those who successfully finish Bronzes,
3. Gold Mentoring Program (Golds)- twelve sessions (12 months) for those who successfully finish the above 2 programs,
4. Diamond Mentoring Program (Diamonds)- lifetime mentoring for those who successful finish the above 3 programs.
Note that there will be curriculum for each program and certificate will be awarded for those who successfully complete each program. We encourage small organizations, which cannot afford to send their leaders to get mentoring, benefit from these programs. We have guidelines and agreement form that direct the mentoring programs, and the relationship between mentors and mentees. If you are interested in this program, let’s know so that we keep you in our waiting list. Note that we serve on a first come first served basis.
Call for Help: We are looking for volunteers. If you have leadership mentoring experience, we would like to hear from you. We are also looking for your generous financial support (to cover the expenses of volunteer mentors) so that we may expand the program and reach as many mentees as possible.